Pixel Scroll 5/13/21 Sympathy For The Pixel

(1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. The online sales site eBay has reorganized a large number of categories and reclassified products into them. The new U.S. table is here: US_Category_Changes_May2021_NFT-update.

If you do a search for “comics” on that page, you’ll find that eBay has decided to retire the categories for “Superhero,” “Platinum Age”, “Golden Age”, “Silver Age”, etc. All listings are being moved into a general Comics & Graphic Novels category.

(2) LEVAR BURTON BOOK CLUB. “LeVar Burton launches a new book club: See first three picks” reports Entertainment Weekly.

The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the MountainOctavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)

“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”

And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”

“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”

(3) KENYAN BOOKTUBERS. SFF history is being made! Thread starts here.

(4) MACHADO Q&A. CBC Radio posted a transcript of their interview with Carmen Maria Machado: “Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all”.

A couple weeks ago, author Carmen Maria Machado got a message from a friend that a video was circulating online that involved her memoir and an angry mom wielding a pink strap-on dildo.

The clip was from a Feb. 25 school board meeting in Leander, Texas. The woman was upset that Machado’s memoir, In The Dream House, was on an approved reading list for high school students.

The book, which chronicles Machado’s experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman, contains a sex scene involving a dildo. The protesting parent read it aloud during the meeting while waving the sex toy around, according to the Austin American Statesman

That’s how Machado learned that her book is one of several that are up for review in Leander because of parents’ complaints. They are part of a book club program that allows students to pick and read one book each semester from a list of 15 chosen by their teachers for their grade level.

The school board told KVUE ABC that it has already removed six books from the program and is devising a policy to exclude “inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages.”

Also on the potential chopping block are books by Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult and Jacqueline Woodson, who, along with Machado, have penned an open letter with the free expression organization PEN America demanding the books remain available to students.

Machado spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation….

After this particular meeting, there’s a spokesperson for Leander [Independent] School District who said: “Our goal is to explore what the community feels are age-appropriate materials for classroom reading.” Is there a valid argument? Do you think that In The Dream House is a book that is age-appropriate for that group?

Professional educators chose the book for their students. This all started because a bunch of teachers were like: We want this book on this list. And that is their job. That is what they’re supposed to be doing.

Certainly there are books that are appropriate for certain ages, but I think saying that students at 17 and 18 can’t read anything with sex in it, and that there’s no value in a book like that for those students when your teachers have said otherwise, the people who you pay to educate your kids, that strikes me as very odd and very disingenuous.

The community is also not a monolith. Like, there are gay teens at that school. There are gay people in Leander, Texas. There gay people in Texas…. And it feels a little, I think, strange that this very conservative religious group can sort of make the agenda for all the other students.

Because the parents who want this, their kids did not have to read the book. They could have chosen a different book. They’re trying to remove the book from the list for all the students. So I don’t think it’s really about age-appropriateness. I mean, there’s a reason they they target books with gay content.

(5) SFWA AUCTION. The “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association Online Silent Auction!” is in progress and will continue through May 17. It has raised $5,060 so far.

In addition to autographed books and manuscripts and other collectibles, the featured items include virtual career coaching and manuscript feedback sessions like these:

  • Virtual Career Coaching from N. K. Jemisin

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with 2020 MacArthur Fellow N. K. Jemisin, the first writer to ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

  • Virtual Career Coaching from Catherynne M. Valente

A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.

  • Virtual Manuscript Feedback from Mary Robinette Kowal

The winning bidder on this item will enjoy a 30 minute Zoom discussion providing feedback on a story or an excerpt of a longer work, up to 3,000 words. An amazing opportunity to receive personal feedback from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal.

(6) CHAIR-ITABLE CAUSE: [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Colin Howard did much of the cover art for Doctor Who‘s VHS releases. See his covers here for “The Android Invasion” and “The Green Death”. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago which has affected his mobility. Currently, there’s a fundraiser to help him: “Fundraiser by Michelle Howard : Please help me get Colin back outside in nature”.

… Colin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, this ridiculously talented artist, nature lover and extrovert.

Progressively as MS does it has taken away his mobility, his confidence and he has become more and more isolated. Unable to get outside with ease, making everything he does exhausting and unenjoyable.

We did buy a manual wheel chair, however it is heavy and he is now unable to use his arms to self propel and it’s so cumbersome and there is no pleasure or enthusiasm for him to use it. It’s become easier for him to stay home…. not good.

After doing tons of research I stumbled across this amazing wheel chair. For those of you who know Col, you’ll know what a huge fan of formula one he is. So you’ll know why I’ve chosen this model of wheel chair…. it has formula one technology… carbon fibre and super light….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 13, 1994 — On this day in 1994, The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. Critics in general loved it, it did well at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a ninety percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1907 – Daphne du Maurier.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories for us; a dozen other novels, three dozen other shorter stories, three plays, nonfiction e.g. The Winding Stair about Francis Bacon, memoirs.  “There are few strains more intolerable in life than waiting for the arrival of unwelcome guests,” The House on the Strand ch.13 (1969) – quoted as a reader’s favorite line on her Website.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The first half of The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is The Isle of The Dead,  Eye Of The CatHome is The HangmanTo Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. There’s to my knowledge only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1940 – Rachel Ingalls.  One novel, ten shorter stories for us.  British Authors’ Club Award.  British Book Marketing Council named one of those ten, the novella “Mrs. Caliban”, among the twenty greatest from America since World War II.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1945 – Maria Tatar, Ph.D., age 76.  Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, at Harvard.  Among her publications, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy TalesThe Annotated Hans Christian AndersenThe Annotated African American Folktales (with Henry Gates).  “Alice [notice I don’t have to identify it any further – JH] is the world’s greatest book.  It’s one of the deepest books.”  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 — Marv Wolfman, 75. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he very temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And He worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell he even wrote a Reboot episode!) (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 72. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever waswhere she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories, ”The End of the World” and “New Earth”. (CE)
  • Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 70. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and making it fresh it through modern fiction writing is amazing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard retelling is an fantastic novel though quite horrific. (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1951 – A.J. Austin, age 70.  Two novels (with Ben Bova), nine shorter stories.  Interviewed Forry Ackerman and Mike Resnick for Thrust.  Ten years hosting a midday call-in radio program in Connecticut.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1957 — Frances Barber, 64. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space PrecinctRed Dwarf and The IT Crowd.  (CE) 
  • Born May 13, 1981 – Kieran Yanner, age 40.  A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors; games; Magic: the Gathering cards; concept art.  Here is Before They Were Giants.  Here is Demon in White.  Here is Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1983 – Nate Ball, age 38.  Mechanical engineer, pole vaulter, beatboxer.  Eight Alien in My Pocket science-adventure chapter books for kids.  Here is Blast Off!  Here is Ohm vs. Amp. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BBC VS. FANFIC? iNews says “Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction”.

But recently a number of fanfic creators have received worrying demands from the BBC to remove their work from the public domain, arguing that they are infringing on copyright. Under the question “Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?” on the show’s online FAQ page, the BBC advises that while anyone is “welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.”

The rules – which were published in 2014 – were unknown to the majority of creators but were widely shared on Twitter this week in response to the BBC’s demands. In response, 21-year-old student Jamie Cowan has started a petition calling for the BBC Studios, the production company behind Doctor Who to offer the fans a seat at the table in these decisions.

Cowan’s petition is at Change.org: “Petition of concern about BBC Studios approach to Doctor Who fan content”. His reference to video clips suggests the BBC’s issue is about more than written Who stories. The petition only has 166 signatures as of this moment.

… The current experience of BBC Studios staff contacting fanfiction and fan audioplays about the own original non-profit ventures – is concerning.

The manual targeting of those who use clips of the show for review purposes or for ‘Top 10’ videos that strongly promote the episodes that they are discussing – is concerning.

We, of the Doctor Who fandom – both creators and the viewers of said creators – call upon you to make a strong reconsideration of the actions you are taking against passionate fans who are doing no damage to the sales or marketability of the brand….

(11) DISNEY RIDES UPDATE HITS A BUMP. “Disney takes ‘woke’ steps toward inclusivity, but sparks a conservative backlash” finds Yahoo! Entertainment.

…The “wench auction” was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.

Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by “Song of the South” — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove “negative depictions of ‘natives’” and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer….

But these changes aren’t taking place without pushback. Fans created a petition to “save” Splash Mountain from the new theme. Disney-focused sites are full of users who decry what they see as a progressive agenda in the parks, and announcements about updates are typically greeted with threats of a boycott. People who vocally advocate for revisions are often subjected to abusive messages….

The updates in the parks follow a shift in the company’s films over the past several decades. Anne Zimmermann, a lecturer in the Rollins College English department in Winter Park, Florida, said Disney’s princesses started becoming more inclusive, assertive and even feminist over the past couple of decades.

“Today’s generation, they are kind of expecting this of Disney, and they will tell you it’s long overdue,” said Zimmermann, who uses Disney stories in her classes.

At the same time, Disney has recognized that some of its older films include outdated and racist cultural stereotypes and has added warnings on its streaming platform or removed those movies from children’s profiles.

“They’re moving not just toward not being racist, but anti-racist,” Zimmermann said. “Changing the parks continues their own narrative of change.”

Her students visit Disney parks for field research — or, more recently, explore rides online — and flag those that strike them as problematic.

For now, there’s a laundry list of other nominees for eventual updates: the Peter Pan ride for stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people; a ride in Epcot’s Mexico area that includes broad stereotypes; Dumbo, which is based on a movie that includes racist tropes. Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next, occasionally with outraged remarks: It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree.

Disney isn’t saying what is next, but the company has dedicated a team to making sure that updates are done right.

“You create experiences that will make people feel welcome, seen and heard and to let them know that their stories are just as important,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a video. “And so my responsibility is to look at what do we have now and does it resonate with our guest in making them more reflective of the world we live in.”

(12) TOXIC AVOIDER. Alan Yu interviews Amy Ratcliffe about her book A Kid’s Guide to Fandom at NPR: “How Kids Can Avoid Toxic Fandoms”.

…So how do fans navigate these communities, to find the good parts while being aware of the bad? It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.

Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor for the pop culture site Nerdist, addresses this as part of her new book, A Kid’s Guide to FandomShe says it’s the book that she wishes she could have had when she was a young fan looking for others like her. Ratcliffe remembers growing up as a fan of the Wheel of Time series, using her family’s dial-up internet to visit online forums.

She says her objective is for kids to be aware of fandom, “that other people like the same things that you like … even if it’s one other person, like you’re not alone.”

“I still hear stories about young girls being bullied because they like Star Wars; they think they’re the only kid,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.”

No one gets to decide who is a “real” fan

Ratcliffe explains in her book that some fans can become gatekeepers, people who want to decide who is or is not a “real fan.” Fans, she says, should never have to prove themselves.Ratcliffe herself has run into gatekeepers; once, at a Star Wars convention, a man saw her Rebel Alliance tattoo, “looked at the tattoo, looked at my then-boyfriend who was with me, and was like … completely serious by the way, no sarcasm, like, ‘oh that was really nice of you to get that tattoo for your boyfriend.'”

Her advice for younger fans who want to find communities is to start with groups or places that they know: a local library, or a game shop they go to with their family; to trust their instincts when they feel something is off; and to get an older sibling, a parent, or guardian involved….

(13) HE FINALLY GOT TO SPACE. In Heritage Auctions’ May 21 – 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction one of the items up for bid is this Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion with a lot of history behind it:

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 43F, Personally Presented by Deke Slayton to and Directly from the Estate of NASA Legend Chris Kraft, with Slayton’s Signed COA and Handwritten Letter of Appreciation. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only ninety-three flown (of 285 minted) aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international manned space effort, July 17-19, 1975, with U.S. crewmembers Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, & Deke Slayton and Soviet crewmembers Alexei Leonov & Valery Kubasov. The obverse features the mission insignia depicting the docking maneuver above the Earth and the names of the mission and crewmembers. The reverse features the title “First Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Flight” and the engraved dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. This mission effectively ended the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seldom are able to offer flown examples of this mission’s medal and this one is likely the nicest we have ever handled. A great candidate for grading and encapsulation.

If this were just a Robbins medal with astronaut or even crewmember-provenance, it would be desirable and valuable. When the history behind it is revealed, it becomes a very special item indeed. Deke Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” but was the only one who never flew into space due to being grounded in 1962 with an atrial fibrillation. Ten years later, he was cleared to fly on Apollo-Soyuz with Dr. Kraft’s blessings. On December 1, 1975, Slayton met with Kraft and presented this medal to him loose in an envelope hand-addressed ” Dr. Chris Kraft/ Personal“. Additionally, inside was a December 1st-dated typed letter signed on NASA letterhead that reads: “I hereby certify that Apollo-Soyuz medallion, serial number 43F, was flown in space aboard the Apollo Command Module from July 15, 1975, through July 17, 1975, and that this medallion was presented to Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., on December 1, 1975. [signed] D. K. Slayton“. 

 [Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason Sanford, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

42 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/13/21 Sympathy For The Pixel

  1. First!

    (1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. I never search eBay using the categories and it’s one of favorite places to purchase everything from t-shirts to high-end SF figures such as the Miles Morales Spider-Man I got from Hong Kong. I just use the search function, categories seem to be a very inefficient way to find something.

  2. 8) For any as might be interested, Zelazny’s Night in the Lonesome October is now available on Kindle.

    Also 8) Zoë Wanamaker also played Lady Clarice Groan (one of the dotty twins) in the BBC production of Gormenghast.

    Set out filing but I take my time
    A friend of the pixel is a scroll of mine

  3. Joe H. says For any as might be interested, Zelazny’s Night in the Lonesome October is now available on Kindle.

    Thanks. I’ll grab a copy of that as it’s one of my favorite works by him. The audio version narrated by him is quite wonderful.

    Also Zoë Wanamaker also played Lady Clarice Groan (one of the dotty twins) in the BBC production of Gormenghast.

    Huh. I didn’t see that. I’ve not watched that production. Is it worth seeing?

  4. @Cat Eldridge

    With the disclaimer that I was ten when it aired and haven’t seen it since and I’ve never read the books: I really liked the BBC miniseries – very atmospheric.

  5. Meredith says With the disclaimer that I was ten when it aired and haven’t seen it since and I’ve never read the books: I really liked the BBC miniseries – very atmospheric.

    Snark. Well I’ve never read the books in full either though I’ve listened to at least part of them quite some years back. I find the setting more interesting than the characters.

    Now watching season three of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit which is obviously not genre adjacent.

  6. I think the BBC miniseries captures the essentials of the Gormenghast books fairly well – it doesn’t really have enough scope to take on the texture and the detail of the whole thing, but it’s a pretty good precis of the story, with a lot of the atmosphere intact.

  7. (11) Updating Disney rides: ” Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next…”

    I think the Hall of Presidents should have more people of color.

  8. 5) As with all such things, the coolest stuff is sadly out of my budgetary range.

    10) See, teenagers going on about how AO3 should be shut down because of the dirty fic? SEE? This is why we have the archive!

  9. Cat Eldridge on May 13, 2021 at 8:25 pm said:

    Now watching season three of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit which is obviously not genre adjacent

    Christopher Meloni also plays High Commander Winslow on The Handmaid’s Tale and Ice-T was in Johnny Mnemonic

    Genre adjecency achieved.

  10. Replying to Iphinome:

    Christopher Meloni also has genre cred for HAPPY!, a 2-season Syfy show; Meloni plays a disgraced cop on the skids (way on the skids)(way, way, WAY on the skids) who, after a near-death experience, awakes to see and hear his estranged young daughter’s imaginary friend, a small winged blue unicorn named Happy. The daughter has been kidnapped by a deranged Santa Claus, and it’s up to Meloni and Happy to rescue her. Based on a comic by Grant Morrison, so it’s on the bizarre side. I watched the first season and enjoyed it, though it puts occasional (and considerable) strain on the bounds of good taste.

  11. (1) Years back I read an article about people who would buy desirable things on eBay where the seller had mistyped the name/description and so it avoided the search function and the attention of other bidders. (This was a while back and the search function has improved.) That might be one reason to look in categories. I just like browsing through some categories because sometimes people either don’t know what they have or are bad at writing effective descriptions.

    (8) It was Bea Arthur’s birthday (b. 1922) Best remembered for her portrayal of Ackmena on the Star Wars Holiday Special.

    Also noted Tolkien scholar Stephen Colbert who was born this day in 1964.

    What can you get a Pixel for Christmas (When he already owns a Scroll?)

  12. @Jack Lint: Noted Tolkien scholar Mr. Colbert is both in a Hobbit movie, and appeared in a Spider-Man comic. And probably more fannish stuff.

    (10) Yeah, good luck with that, Beeb.

  13. Bruce Arthurs on May 13, 2021 at 10:39 pm said:

    Christopher Meloni also has genre cred for HAPPY!,

    All sorts of problems with HAPPY! and yet I enjoyed it. Meloni is excellent in it.

  14. It’s worth noting that after a very long absence that Christopher Meloni has retuned to the Law and Order franchise and is heading his own series in Law and Order: Organised Crime. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit at twenty two years is the longest running primetime drama in American television history.

  15. @Bruce Arthurs: Yeah, Happy was something. I watched both seasons.

    Ice-T appears as a character in Rick and Morty, so that’s another (kind of) genre credit

  16. Meredith moment: Pat Murphy’s Nebula Award winning The Falling Woman is available from the usual suspects for a buck ninety nine. It was also nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

  17. So who’s read Naomi Kritzer’s Catfishing on CatNet? I’m looking for a review for Green Man Review. A modest recompense will be provided. If interested, send me an email here.

  18. (9) The Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans comics were groundbreaking back in the early ’80s. Great writing, taking a goofy premise (“What if the kid sidekicks of all our popular characters were in a superhero team together?”) and giving the characters some real depth.

  19. @Rob Thornton & @Mike Glyer: Great title for the scroll! An offer of assistance from a Filer recently made me think (with apologies to Streisand):

    Filers who need Filers
    Are the luckiest Filers . . . in the world!

    😀 [ETA: This one may have been done already, of course.]

  20. I’ve been on a reading frenzy lately catching up on prequels for this years’ Hugo ballot, been trying to do 100 pages a day but averaging more than that which is the most I think I’ve ever read, finished something close to 10 books in the last month.

    I need some advice though. For as much as I’ve been reading, it’s taken me 4 or 5 days to power through the first 100 pages of Gideon the Ninth, which I’d need to read in order to read Harrow the Ninth on this years’ ballot. I know it seems like a lot of people loved Gideon, but I am finding it a) incomprehensible, up until the last 15 pages or so; b) not very funny; and c) not that engaging. I usually try to give a book 100 pages or so before dropping it, but I was hoping that this one was going to improve. I’ve read some forums and some people seemed to suggest it picks up about 1/3 of the way in. I just wanted to get some advice if I should power on or if I should move on to something else.

    For reference, right before Gideon I just finished The Poppy War and really, really enjoyed it. Before that I read all 3 Lady Astronaut books and found them decent enough. I do think the best thing I’ve read so far from the Hugo ballot are the 2 Emily Tesh novellas, which were just fantastic.

  21. @Kjel: I’m one of the people for whom Gideon the Ninth didn’t entirely work. I liked the character of Gideon, but didn’t like the world/universe in the book. I found that the book didn’t ‘pick up’ in terms of keeping my interest until 50% of the way through. The heightened action/problem solving swept me along until the finish but in the end I just wasn’t a fan. All of that is preface to my advice to you to move on to something else. You can always revisit Gideon if you have the time. And this year we have lots of time.

  22. Kjel: I know it seems like a lot of people loved Gideon, but I am finding it a) incomprehensible, up until the last 15 pages or so; b) not very funny; and c) not that engaging… I just wanted to get some advice if I should power on or if I should move on to something else.

    Because so many people raved about Gideon, I slogged through the whole thing, thinking that surely it must pay off in the end. (After all, I bounced off Ninefox Gambit hard twice, before finally being able to get into it on the third try and then loving it.)

    Instead, I ended up wishing that I could get that reading time back. If you’re not enjoying it now, that’s probably not going to change. I love locked-room mysteries, but it’s 500 pages of sarcasm and snark from teenagers who aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are, and the worldbuilding is inconsistent and irrational. The ending is a 40-page fight scene which goes on absolutely forever. I No-Awarded it on my Hugo ballot. (But I absolutely loved Muir’s novella Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower (mini-review here) and put it on my Hugo ballot, so go figure.)

    So I agree with Lorien Gray that a good choice might be to set it aside, at least for now, with the thought that you might consider picking it up again later after you’ve had the chance to do the rest of your reading.

    I congratulate you on your ambition to read all of the prequels! There’s some good reading in there. And I really loved the Tesh novellas, too; I nominated her for the Astounding Award.

  23. JJ: I thought I was going to bounce off Gideon, because at an early point all the obsessive and loving morbidity made me question why I was hoping to be entertained. Eventually I was drawn in by the mystery and the relationships and finished the book. I didn’t pick up the next one — but since it’s a Hugo nominee, I will be reading it if it’s in the packet.

  24. I’m one of the people who raved about Gideon and I still love it but as I admitted at the time, it does start slow.

    The sarcasm and snark are a feature, not a bug.

  25. Thanks for the input! I’m going to put it down for now and if I have time and energy in a few months, I’ll pick it up again. I gave it a few chapters after they got to the First’s planet and it wasn’t getting better for me. I just don’t think I like the sarcasm/snark or think it really works in this book for me.

    @JJ
    I really slogged through Ninefox when it was nominated and really didn’t like it and never picked up the sequels. (For me that was the year I was really hoping for Chambers to win for A Closed and Common Orbit, which for my money is probably the best SF book of the last few years.)
    When you said that Gideon is a locked room mystery, that actually made me perk up a bit and think I might end up coming back to it. I mean, not enough to actually keep going right now, but maybe later on. (Sidenote again for locked room books; I had Six Wakes at the top of my ballot in 2018 which I just loved!)

  26. Kjel, I loved Six Wakes too, and it was also at the top of my ballot. 🙂

    I’m still banging the drum for The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (one of this year’s Astounding finalists). It’s an epic space science fiction mystery with lots of big ideas, and it was at the top of my Hugo Novel ballot.

    There’s a review by the Hugo Award Book Club here.

  27. 9) @Acoustic Rob: The Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans comics were groundbreaking back in the early ’80s.

    And then DC went And removed the humor, and gave us Young Justice. At least that’s what it seemed like to me with the animated series. Teen Titans was one of the A+ animated series, with lots of humor, then Bam! Sneaking in a very serious plot. Young Justice on the other hand was very serious and tried to cram in far too many characters and plot lines.

    11 ) I remember a wonderful rant about how the religious right back in the 90s threatened a boycott over Disney and gay days. As it turned out, as predicted the boycott completely fizzled. Because bottom line, money talks.

    Now, racism and misogny is much more imbedded in the American psyche than homophobia, but even so, I don’t think bigoted money has that big a voice.

    @JJ: snark from teenagers who aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are,

    FWIW, the fact that the snarky teens aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are is a major plot point in the book. It’s almost like traumatized teens who have been raised in incredibly disfunctional surroundings might focus on their personal drama and miss major things going on around them.

    I think it’s worth reading a second time, while considering all the things going on around the big clueless jock.

    But then I admit, I like stories where it turns out the protagonist had been at the eye of the hurricane.

  28. And then DC went And removed the humor, and gave us Young Justice.

    Oddly enough, the original use of Young Justice as a comic title was for a rather sillier version of the New Teen Titans concept. (Which made your comment read strangely to me until I saw which versions you were referring to.)

    Regarding Gideon the Ninth, I thought the worldbuilding could really have used some indication of what life looks like outside the Nine Houses (or even much of an indication how much life there is outside them). A few brushstrokes would have gone a long way there.

  29. @James Moar The only people in the book who might have had any clues were the second house who probably only saw battlefields. People in Harrow the Ninth know but don’t really say. I can non-spoilery say that they are weirdos who don’t decorate their spaceships with bones. Like not at all.

    Given that there’s no boning they probably have miserable lives.

  30. Rose Embolism says And then DC went And removed the humor, and gave us Young Justice. At least that’s what it seemed like to me with the animated series.

    I really like the Young Justice series grim though it be at times. I thought it was a well-crafted narrative with interesting characters that were given believable stories.

    Now listening to P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn which is proving to be most excellent indeed. I’m so happy that this is the first of a series!

  31. There’s a bit in Gideon the Ninth that I really identified with. It’s a few chapters in, after Gideon and Harrow arrive at the First House and meet people from the other Houses (I agree that things do pick up around then, but enjoying the narrator’s snark vs. not enjoying it makes the difference between whether getting to that point is a slog).

    I was raised Catholic, but my religious education consisted mainly of Sunday School and going to Mass once a week, where the emphasis was, quite understandably, more on Here’s What We Are/Do/Believe than on Here’s What We Aren’t/Don’t/Disbelieve. I understood, dimly, that Catholicism was a flavor of Christianity, but until I was much older and getting proselytized at by a Bible Baptist, I had very little idea how very much the denominations differed from each other, or even that there were some denominations that considered Catholics like myself and my family not Christian at all.

    So I get to the scene where the representatives of all eight non-First Houses are gathered, and there’s a group prayer, which Gideon had some suspicion was going to be somewhat different from what she was used to, but she’d had no idea it was going to be this different, and then their host is like, “Let’s hear how they pray on the Ninth,” and “Isn’t it wonderful how you’ve kept up those very old traditions while everyone else has moved on?” and everything that Gideon had grown accustomed/resigned to as normal daily life was suddenly being treated like this weird oddity that some people fetishized and others abominated… yeah. I’m 100% with her there.

  32. Zelazny had a number of audio appearances, including readings of most of his Amber books.

    Those readings answered a vital question for Amber fans: how to pronounce “Fiona”. Was it “Fee-ona” or “Fye-ona”. He pronounced it “Fye-ona”.

  33. @Hoosier
    In the Amber games I’ve run, it’s always been “Fee-ona and if you want to risk her wrath, you mispronounce it and shorten it to “Fye”

  34. I still haven’t watched young Justice, mostly because it looked a bit too “old” for my kids, and I tend to save tv watching time without the kids for things my husband also wants to watch.

    I was, however, recently rereading the very earliest Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans and watching the TV show Titans at the same time, and my conclusion was: Titans had vastly better dramatic beats and sense of how to build a story, and how to present dialogue. The New Teen Titans had all the cheesy and no-subtext dialogue of comics of its day, with “As you know Bob” dialogue in each comic to catch you up on the events of the last, the comic series need to create big dramatic scenes that make a good cover then have to be resolved in 38 pages with no substantial change, and a fair bit of the clueless sexism of the time. And yet its actual underlying STORY was in many ways more revolutionary, as for example, one major plot point was an extended debate with absolute pacifists.

    Titans pulled on a lot of much more post-Watchman (grimdarkish) tropes that have nowadays become more hackneyed than many of the bright shiny primary colours comic tropes, from secret evil government/military projects to secretly evil though they act nice nuns to not entirely secretly evil corporations and secretly evil parents… plus of course going with the psychologically messed up grimdark Batman and therefore making Dick Grayson also psychologically messed up and messing up his team because of it.

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